Article: Some USC Greens grapple with 'spoiler' effect - It's Green Party ideals vs. voting to get Bush out any way possible

By Gina Goodhill, Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Campus Vibe is a feature that provides student perspectives on the 2004 election from selected colleges across the United States. This week's contributor is Gina Goodhill, student reporter at the Daily Trojan, the University of Southern California student newspaper. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the University of Southern California.

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Benjamin Beatty, a University of Southern California alumnus, voted for former Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election and is definite he made the right decision -- then.

Beatty, who majored in cinema and television, said if he had to do it all over again, he'd vote for Nader -- even though many Democrats blame Green voters for Bush's success in 2000.

"More than 49 percent of eligible voters didn't vote. How come they're not considered spoilers?" the Green Party member said.

But in the 2004 election, with Nader running as an independent and no Green candidate as yet, Beatty is not so sure.

"I may go with the Green candidate, I may go with independent, and I may hold my nose and go with good old John Kerry," he said.

Another Green, USC student David Ritter said his tendency to "lean toward the liberal spectrum" explains why the Green Party suits his political beliefs.

Ritter will be next year's president of USC's student club Green Network, which he described as a club loosely affiliated with the Green Party. Despite his identification with those ideals, he does not plan to vote for a third-party candidate in the 2004 presidential election.

"I think that right now, it's the wrong climate to elect a third-party candidate," he said. "My priority is to make a concrete vote that is going to turn out productive."

Ritter is not alone. Other Green Party sympathizers at USC said that they are also unsure about who they will support.

Many Green Party members are considering voting for Democratic Sen. Kerry, even though the Green Party traditionally encourages its members to vote outside of the two-party system.

Strategic voting

First year alumni Michael Ashkenasi, who majored in cinema and television, said that the 2004 presidential election will be his first opportunity to vote in California. He plans to register as a Green.

Still, like Ritter, Ashkenasi said he will probably vote for Kerry.

"I suppose I am falling into the ranks of those who think it is most important to get [President George] Bush out of office," he said.

While Ashkenasi said he thinks the idea of a two-party system is "ludicrous," he is willing to compromise his beliefs rather than see Bush serve another four years.

He also said he would vote for independent candidate Ralph Nader only if he was sure that Kerry was receiving considerably higher approval ratings than President Bush.

Ritter echoed Ashkenasi's sentiments by adding, "I don't really like Kerry, but I like him a lot more than Bush."

The Green Party candidate will be chosen at a the party's presidential nominating convention in late June in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

No more Nader

Nader was the 2000 Green Party candidate but this time. Some Green Party members said even though they agree with many of Nader's ideals, they are not planning to vote for him.

"I'm defiantly not voting for Nader," said Tyler Claxton, a Green affiliate and a registered independent.

Claxton, a junior majoring in environmental studies and next year's secretary of Green Network, said he agrees with Nader on the issues, but believes Nader is "undermining the Green Party" by running as an independent.

He said that he has become so disheartened with the way the coming election is shaping up that he is considering not voting at all, even when the Green Party picks a candidate to endorse.

"I'm really involved in the issues, but as far as voting, I don't have enough confidence right now," said Claxton.

Beatty said that when the Green Party officially endorses a candidate, party members would likely show support at the voting booths.

"I think that people who are registered Green are registered for a reason," said Beatty. "Not to say they're not conflicted, but I'd be surprised if most Greens didn't vote Green."